Jun 12, 2015

Short Time Late Seventies Mets Outfielder: Ken Henderson (1978)

Kenneth Joseph Henderson was born on June 15, 1946 in Carroll, Iowa. He went to high school in San Diego California & got signed by the San Francisco Giants in 1964.

He was a good defensive outfielder with speed getting to the major leagues when he was just 18 years old. He debuted at Shea Stadium as the Giants visited New York in early April; Ken was used as a defensive replacement.

He saw action in 65 games that year batting just .192. The next season he hit 13 HRs with 66 RBIs posting a .372 on base % at AA Phoenix. After another season batting just .190 in 179 at bats he was sent back to AAA to develop.

By 1969 he was playing in 119 games, alongside the likes of Willie Mays & Bobby Bonds at Candlestick Park. He was fighting for a spot in a talented Giants outfield, against Jim Ray Hart & future 1971 Met Dave Marshall.

In 1970 Henderson proved his worth as a regular having a great year; he hit .294 with a career high 35 doubles, 17 HRs 88 RBIs, 20 stolen bases, & 104 runs scored. (8th in the NL). His ability to draw walks carried over into the majors as he posted a .394 on base % drawing over 80 walks for two straight seasons. In the outfield had a career high 15 assists (2nd in the NL) posting a .966 on base %.

The 1971 Giants won the NL Western Title & Henderson hit 15 HRs with 26 doubles 65 RBIs 18 steals 84 walks a .370 on base % & a .266 batting average. In the 1971 NLCS he doubled off the Pirates Steve Blass in Game #1, driving in a run helping the Giants to a 5-4 opening win. He also got a hit & drove in a run in Game #2; overall batting .313 in the Series, but the Giants lost out to Pittsburgh who went on to win the World Series over the Baltimore Orioles. In the outfield with his strong arm he had double figures in assists in both 1971 & 1972.

In the '72 season he was second in the league once again with 13 assists. At the end of 1972 he was traded to the White Sox along with pitcher Steve Stone for two time 15 game winner, Tom Bradley. Henderson was limited to just 73 games batting .260 in the 1973 season.

He returned to have a great 1974 season, on pretty good White Sox team that finished at .500. Henderson led all centerfielders in put outs & games played (162) posting a .987 fielding % while making seven assists. He had career highs in HRs (20) third on the club behind sluggers Dick Allen & Bill Melton. Henderson led the Sox with 95 RBIs which was fourth most in the AL. He also led the Sox in hits (176) doubles (35) & triples (5) while batting .292 & stealing 12 bases.

Unfortunately he never matched those numbers again, but remained one of the better defensive outfielders in baseball. In 1975 his HR production fell to just 9 HRs while batting .251. After 1975, things got quite busy for Henderson as he would be traded four times over the next three seasons.

First he was sent to Atlanta in December 1975 with Dick Ruthven & a player named Ozzie Osborn for in exchange for Larvell “Sugar Bear" Blanks and former NL batting champ the “Road Runner” Ralph Garr.

The 1976 Bicentennial year was Henderson’s is last good season, as he hit .262 with 13 HRs 19 doubles & 61 RBIs in Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium. In right field he posted a .984 fielding % (second in the NL) with three assists. At the end of the year he was off to the Texas Rangers with Carl Morton, Adrian Devine, Dave May, Roger Moret, and $250,000 for slugger Jeff Burroughs who was the 1974 AL MVP.

In Spring Training with the Texas Rangers, Henderson had to be restrained during the famous Lenny Randle /Frank Lucchese ordeal. Randle, who was not happy about losing his job to Rookie Bump Wills, ended up punching the team’s manager Lucchese in the face, in an ugly incident. On the 1977 season, Henderson batted .258 in 74 games.

In March 1978 he came to the New York Mets to complete a huge trade made back in December 1977. This deal involved the Mets trading away John Matlack & John Milner, while the Mets received Willie Montanez , the Rangers’ Tom Grieve.

Henderson was in the Mets line up batting in the fifth spot behind cleanup hitter Willie Montanez on Opening Day 1978. In that game Henderson doubled home a run & was intentionally walked, helping Jerry Koosman to a 3-1 win at Shea Stadium. Henderson hit safely in his first three Mets game, and then had his biggest day as a Met on April 10th against the Chicago Cubs. He had two hits including a HR & three RBIs in the Mets 6-0 victory.

But his Mets career was very brief and all over after seven games. He got hurt & then in May was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Dale Murray. Henderson played in Cincinnati & then in Chicago with the Cubs finishing his 16 year career in 1980.

Henderson was a lifetime .257 hitter with 1168 hits 122 HRs 216 doubles 589 walks 576 with a .3343 on base % in 1444 games played. He posted a.977 fielding % in the outfield making 68 assists with 2552 put outs, making just 61 errors & making 15 double plays in 1252 games. After baseball he settled down with his wife & four children to reside in Los Gatos California.

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